Citation. 385 U.S. 39, 87 S.Ct. 242, 17 L.Ed.2d 149 (1966).
Brief Fact Summary.
Defendants challenged trespass conviction, arguing their convictions should be overturned because the Florida law violated the First Amendment.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The United States Constitution does not forbid a state to control the use of its own property for its own lawful, nondiscriminatory purpose.
Defendants went from their school to the local jail to demonstrate at the jail. Defendants were protesting against the arrests of other protesting students the day before and more generally against state and local policies and practices of racial segregation in the jail. The county sheriff tried to persuade them to leave. When this did not work, he notified them they must leave else would be arrested fro trespassing.
Some students left, but Defendants remained and were arrested. Defendants were convicted of trespass. Defendants appealed, arguing their convictions must be reversed because the statute violated their First Amendment rights to speech, press, assembly, and petition.
Whether the Florida trespass statute violates the First Amendment as applied to the curtilage of a jailhouse.
No. The Florida trespass statute does not violate the First Amendment as applied to the curtilage of a jailhouse.
Jails are obvious centers of protest. We do violence to the First Amendment when we allow a protest to be turned into a trespass action.
The Florida trespass statute is aimed at conduct of one limited kind. There is no lack of notice, nothing to entrap or fool the unwary. Additionally, the sheriff, as the jail custodian, has power to direct that this large crowd of people get off the grounds. Indeed, the record shows he only objected to their presence on the part of the jail grounds reserved for jail uses.
Nothing in the U.S. Constitution prevents even-handed enforcement of its general trespass statute against those refusing to obey the sheriff’s orders. Some assume people who want to propagandize protests or views have a constitutional right to do so whenever and however they please. This is incorrect. Judgement affirmed.